Tag Archives: 5.56/.223

Can a Tiny 45 gr .223 Varmint Bullet Defeat Level III Steel Armor?

Note:  I want to take a moment and thank Andrew Betts for this article.  I often have tried to explain this to people and I don’t think they believed me.  If you choose or have to wear body armor, be aware of its limits.  And as always, try not to get shot.  -Howard

Can a Tiny 45 gr .223 Varmint Bullet Defeat Level III Steel Armor?

By Andrew Betts


Level III AR500 armor is rated to stop 7.62x51mm NATO. It seems obvious that anything “less” than that would also be stopped. Is it possible that such a tiny bullet from a much less powerful cartridge could perforate armor designed and rated to stop the mighty 7.62x51mm?

As it turns out, yes. That tiny bullet can zip right through the steel armor, even when fired from relatively short barrels. How is this possible? It seems counterintuitive. It seems that it would require more power to get through steel armor but in fact, velocity is the primary factor that influences steel armor penetration. Sectional density, bullet construction, and mass all play a role, of course, but the roles they play are minimal compared to the role played by velocity. In the case of ¼” thick AR500 steel, 3,200 fps is about the cutoff point. Anything faster than that will usually pass through and anything slower will probably be stopped. The actual V50 rating is not published by the company, but it is apparent that it is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,200 fps. The V50 rating is the velocity at which 50% of the projectiles of a given type pass through. To determine the V50 rating, a laboratory increases the velocity of the bullet being tested until it perforates the armor, then tests statistically relevant sample sizes at velocities near that point to determine the velocity at which 50% of bullets pass through.

It may be tempting to declare that this armor is garbage, but that is far from the case. This test simply demonstrates the design limitations of this type of armor. The plate shown in this test is available for $65 from http://www.ar500armor.com and will stop all handgun rounds and most common rifle rounds such as 7.62x39mm, 7.62x51mm, .300 Blackout, and even most .223 or 5.56x45mm ammo. While it is not specifically rated for M855, this plate will stop multiple hits of it. It will not stop M193, if it is fired from a long enough barrel and impacts at a close enough distance, but it will stop virtually any 60 grain and heavier .223 Rem projectile. Moreover, it will do so even after significant abuse. As we saw in the video, the plate stopped two rounds of 7.62x51mm, even after it had been perforated multiple times by the varmint ammo. Rather than focusing on the few threats that it will not stop, consider that you cannot purchase any lower threat level for the same cost. It stops far more than Level IIIA soft armor does and costs much less.

It is also worth noting that, while the high velocity varmint ammo does a good job of getting through the steel plate, it is not a good choice for defense. As seen in the test below, it penetrates far too shallowly to achieve reliable incapacitation.

Finally, it bears mentioning that the same company that produces this armor also produces Level III+ steel armor, which is designed to stop many of the threats that can defeat Level III armor. Be wary, though. Level III+ is not an actual NIJ rating, just an affirmation by the maker that the plate exceeds Level III by some degree in their assessment. Some manufacturers have had independent labs test their Level III+ plates and give them a special threat rating for specific rounds and others have not. Just because the plate is advertised as a Level III+ does not mean the same thing for various manufacturers. As with any other purchase you must do your own research. You should do your level best to find independent testing results from qualified labs and where that is not available, amateur testing as seen in the video above can help to inform your decision. As always, software > hardware. What is between your ears matters far more than what is on your chest. Train hard.

Does an M14 Really Turn Cover Into Concealment?

By Andrew Betts


If you spend enough time at an outdoor range, especially on the weekdays when the retirees are there in force, you are certain to hear someone opine that they prefer the M14 to the AR/M16/M4 because it “turns cover into concealment”. This is usually in conjunction with their opinion that the DoD made a terrible error in moving to the 5.56x45mm, rather than the much more manly 7.62x51mm. No one can claim that the 7.62mm NATO does not have more power. The cartridge contains significantly more powder and it launches a heavier bullet at only moderately lower velocity. Is that extra power actually useful for penetrating cover, though? Does it really “turn cover into concealment”?

To answer that, we took a look at a few real world objects of varying composition. The question is not whether the 7.62mm penetrates more deeply than the 5.56mm. It is widely known that 7.62mm will penetrate more deeply in some materials such as wood, while 5.56mm can often penetrate steel plate at close range better. M193 55 gr FMJ can even defeat Level III armor plates that are rated for multiple 7.62x51mm M80 147 gr FMJ (https://youtu.be/QrWtgyFQ8LU). The claim that the old guys are making is that the M14 can kill a man who is hiding behind an object that would stop a 5.56mm. In other words, does a small difference in penetration depth really translate to a difference in whether a specific object will act as cover or not? If the cartridges are compared in terms of go/no-go, will the M14 really “turn cover into concealment”?

For the first test, we will consider concrete barriers. There are a variety of concrete walls, block walls, and other concrete barriers in the urban landscape that a person might take cover behind. The concrete varies somewhat in the ratios of the ingredients but all are composed of cement, sand, and sometimes larger aggregate. Regardless of the recipe, concrete has high compressive strength and low tensile strength. That means that it works very well for applications such as load bearing walls, but not so well for a second story floor. It resists being crushed but when bent, it cracks easily. That also means that it works pretty well to stop a bullet, but it is destroyed in the process. We tested two kinds of concrete. The first is a concrete block common to privacy fences, with lots of small aggregate and air voids.

The second is a concrete paver. While not as sturdy as a poured concrete wall, the paver is made from mostly cement and sand, with little aggregate and no air voids.

In both tests, neither round was completely stopped by the concrete barrier. While the 7.62mm did look more impressive, the 5.56mm also made it through and neither cartridge seemed to retain much ability to wound on the other side of the wall. That is to say, both would likely cause a painful wound but neither were likely to penetrate deeply enough to have a high probability of causing incapacitation. A bad guy on the other side of either of those barriers would have an awfully bad day to be sure, but he would likely have the opportunity to make your own day much shorter. To sum up, it is a very close race with little practical difference between the two cartridges.

Of course, an 8” thick, poured concrete wall with rebar reinforcement is likely to stop both rounds cold, but it is also outside our ability to test. There are almost infinite variations on the thickness and composition of concrete structures and some will certainly stop both cartridges while others will not stop either cartridge, as seen in the above tests. It would take substantial resources to conclusively identify exactly what sort of barriers could be penetrated by which cartridge and at what distance. For our more general and limited testing, the conclusion is that both cartridges can penetrate some concrete barriers. There may very well be a special Goldilocks barrier that is just thick enough to stop the 5.56mm but not the 7.62mm. From what we can see of this testing, it seems likely that such a barrier would also bleed so much energy from the 7.62mm as to render it nearly harmless, though. Both cartridges failed to fully penetrate a single water jug in this test so if the thickness of the concrete were increased to that magical point where 5.56mm was stopped but 7.62mm passed through, the 7.62mm would be even less energetic than was seen in this testing, which means a very minor wound.

Next, we will consider one of the few components on a motor vehicle that actually has a good chance of stopping a bullet: a brake rotor. Other than the drive train, the brake rotors (or drums) are one of a very few places where there is actually enough thick metal to have a reasonably good chance of stopping a bullet. Frame rails will usually stop handgun rounds but are unlikely to stop any rifle round and it is common knowledge that the body does next to nothing to stop a bullet. Conversely, the engine and transmission should stop nearly any man portable weapon short of an AT-4. Will the brake rotor be just thick enough to stop one cartridge, but not the other?

In this case, several rounds of both the 5.56mm and the 7.62mm were stopped. It is true that the 7.62mm looked to be a bit closer to getting through, based on the slight cracks on the back side of the disc, but the bottom line is that a person hiding behind that object would not have acquired any extra face holes from either cartridge.

Wood is one of the materials which 7.62mm is said to penetrate much more deeply than 5.56mm so we compared the two cartridges’ ability to penetrate a modest sized log.

On the one hand, the 7.62mm penetrated almost twice as much wood as the 5.56mm. On the other hand, both were stopped and you would need to find a log that was more than 2 ½” thick but less than 4” thick to be able to stop the 5.56mm but not the 7.62mm. Aside from the obvious problem that few people would consider a 4” stick to be “cover”, the difference here underscores something we have long suspected. It is true that 7.62mm can penetrate more deeply, but the difference is unlikely to make any substantive real world difference. That is to say, there are very few objects that are just thick enough to stop a 5.56mm but not thick enough to stop a 7.62mm. Most objects are either thick enough to stop both or thin enough to stop neither.

We did find one material that was soft enough to underscore the difference in a very definitive way: water. This is a test using a 55 gallon plastic drum filled with water as the barrier.

Finally, here is an object that very clearly stopped one bullet but not the other. If your target is taking cover behind a 55 gallon plastic drum full of water, 7.62x51mm can punch through it, while 5.56mm will probably be stopped. In the high speed video, it seems that the 7.62mm was not really moving along that quickly after passing through the barrel, though. It is possible that it would not be capable of doing much wounding after getting through the barrel, but we did not test for that, so the nod has to go to the 7.62mm for getting through.

It is also worth noting here that projectile construction could make a significant difference in any of these tests. If the rounds were changed to bonded soft points, it is possible that both rounds would have made it through the water. If the 7.62mm were a Hornady 155 gr AMAX, it is unlikely it would get through the barrel. There are a wide variety of bullet weights and designs available for both cartridges and some of them will substantially change the performance on these objects. We chose M80 and M855 because they are the commonly issued FMJ ammunition for their respective rifles. We chose a 16” barreled AR15 because it is a good compromise length and we did not have the time to test 11.5”, 14.5”, and 20” barrels. We also did not test at greater distance, where the 7.62mm is likely to have a larger advantage because hauling the test materials 200 yards down range is difficult, bothersome, and disruptive to other shooters. There are a variety of conditions that were not tested and those conditions could give more of an edge to one or the other cartridge.

Overall, most of the tests showed very little difference between the two cartridges. In every test but the water barrel, either both penetrated the test object or both were stopped. Ultimately, it does not appear that there is any evidence to support the unilateral claim that 7.62x51mm “turns cover into concealment”. There may be some very specific circumstances where this is true, but they appear to be the exception, rather than the rule. To be sure, this concept deserves quite a lot more testing. It would be nice to see the differences at range and through a variety of other materials such as live wood and poured concrete. Some day we may continue testing. It seems that the M14 is likely to develop a real, substantive advantage as range
increases because the greater mass and higher ballistic coefficient can carry more energy further down range. On the other hand, this sort of testing only compares a single round of one cartridge to a single round of the other but 7.62mm weighs twice as much and that means a person is likely to have twice as much 5.56mm. In that light, one round of 5.56mm may be just about as good as one round of 7.62mm but two rounds of 5.56mm are far better than one round of 7.62 in nearly any circumstance. The real take-away here is that nothing in the world of firearms and projectiles is nearly as simple as “A is better than B” and it appears that the statement “The M14 turns cover into concealment,” is more often false than it is true.

Related  further reading of 762 penetration


How To Record Your Bullets In Flight

Recording projectiles flying to the target is a very simple process, and it produces some neat results that you can take home with you on film after your done at the range.

A up to date camera is a must. I used to film with a standard definition camera, and when you zoomed in the mirage made everything turn to pot. With the HD camera, mirage still occurs, but you can still see whats going on down range better than with an old camera.

The camera I used is a Panasonic HC-V270 with 90x optical / digital zoom. This is a budget camera that runs a 1080p picture in 60 FPS. Nothing special and by no means a pricey piece of equipment.

Place the camera next to your position and zoom in on the target. Ensure that you are recording more of the space above the target than below since our bullet will arch to the target.

For even better results, shoot with the sun behind you and you might capture an image of the bullet itself as it fly’s downrange. In this case, I was fortunate to capture a 75 gr Hornady fly to a 600 yard gong.

I hope you can record some very cool shots. Anyone have a 45/70?

Happy Bullet Trails!

The Razor HD II at 6 Months: Versatility at a Price

Razor HDII

I have been using the Razor HD II for about 6 months. It’s a well-known optic, and there are many good reviews online for the piece already. They discuss its weight, its features, its huge eye-box, and they discuss X, Y, or Z… but they seem to neglect the real meat and potatoes of the optic. The Razor HD II is a Jack of All Trades.

I studied my options for weeks before I chose the Razor. $1400 isn’t chump change. It cost more than the ACOG it replaced, but looking at the optic from a shooters perspective can give us some good reasons to go with a high-end variable over a ACOG.

Razor HD rear

First and foremost, the optic I chose has a JM-BDC1 reticle. This reticle is a BDC calibrated for multiple loadings. The ranging marks are good for 9 inch wide target, and not the shoulder width of the typical BDC stadia. For ranging purposes on a human silhouette, the head must be used instead of the shoulders to measure an accurate range. I don’t consider this good or bad, just different.

Razor HD II
Click to Enlarge

What is good though, is that the BDC mirrors several important loadings very well. 55 and 62 grain ammo will match the stadia out of 16 inch and longer systems well with a sight in at + – 100 yards. Heavier ammo in the 69-77 grain range will match the stadia closely if zeroed at 200 yards. This makes the razor a good system for people who might be switching rifles or ammo types and haven’t settled on a specific loading.

Furthermore, since it’s a second focal plane optic, we can also modify the bullet drop by dialing back a bit on the magnification. Very oddly… i found that, according to Strelok Ballistic Calculator, the Razor HD would calibrate very well at 3x for a 12 inch .300 blackout firing supersonic loadings. Also the 9 inch stadia (calibrated at 6x) become 18 inch stadia at 3x so suddenly this optic can be capably used for a loading it wasn’t designed for…

Obviously experimentation is necessary to identify loadings that match well to the stadia and which level of magnification will further align with the bullet drop. Since the Razor is offered in Mil-Rad and MOA reticles as well, you can go that route too instead of tweaking things like I do with the JM-BDC-1.

The illumination is daylight bright, and is a single dot in the center of the cross-hairs. Is it red dot bright? Yes. The Razor’s field of view at 1x and bright red dot make this a devastating variable up close.

When you are stretching the optics legs, you can take off the caps and dial in your dope. Underneath the caps the optic is waterproof so no need to worry about leaving the turrets exposed. The important thing to note here is that takes a full 50 minutes of rotation to go past your zero. Since it doesn’t have zero stops, the huge amount of rotation should keep you from getting lost in the dial. If you are shooting 5.56 in a 0-600 yard setting you would need to shoot one slow… derpy loading to need to rotate the dial past 25 minutes.

Vortex RAzor HD II up close

Wind corrections are also marked and can go 25 minutes either way.

The Razor HD II has plenty of stiff competition. There are many options at the Razor HD’s $1300 price point, but I think it has a nice mix of features to allow you to shoot it in a variety of ways to extract the most value for your dollar. Not to mention the glass is beautiful. Overall, I believe an optic like this goes well on a general purpose gun. It’s not specialized enough to give a precision minded shooter the tools he / she needs for long-range work, and it’s not as light and fast on target as a red dot. It, like many other variables… operates in that niche where it is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. That said, it has more going for it than many other variables I have handled due to its combination of features.


+ Glass is clear

+ Turrets are hard to get lost in

+ Water proof with or without caps

+ Can be very versatile if you experiment

+ Red dot bright illumination

+ BDC, MOA or Mil-Rad options available

– weight

– heavyness

+ increases physical endurance

Colt 6933

Colt 6933 ACOG

This is a Colt 6933 (well actually a 6945 lower with a 6933 upper). The factory trigger was replaced with a Geissele SSA trigger. A KAC M4 RAS was added to provide a quad rail and add some weight to the front of the gun. The carry handle was removed and replaced with a Matech rear sight. The TA31F ACOG scope was installed because I tried to sell it but no one wanted a $500 beat up ACOG.

It is not as light and handy as a stock 6933, but it is a fun little setup.

Colt 6945 & the Geissele Super 3 Gun trigger

I bought a Colt 6945.  Why?  Because I wanted one.  Good enough reason for me.

Colt 6945


I ordered the rifle Feburary from Gun Gallery.  In September the tax stamp finally came back from the ATF and I picked it up.  The staff at Gun Gallery were friendly and helpful, so I would purchase from them again.

The Colt 6945 is a short barreled rifle (SBR) version of the Colt 6940.  This rifles 10.3 inch barrel is the main difference from the standard 6940, and is why it is a title II firearm which required me to pay a $200 dollar tax stamp to get it.

The 6940 series of rifles have a monolithic upper with a removable bottom rail.  The barrel uses a proprietary barrel extension and gas tube.  Shawn and others have reported that their 6940s have superb accuracy due to these changes.  Personally I don’t plan to try and use this as a precision rifle, so its no difference to me.

The best thing about a short barreled AR15 is the pure modularity of it.  I can easily swap upper for various barrel lengths and calibers.

2014-09-21 12.01.11


So I really like my 6945.

Colt 6945


Since getting it I have run six different uppers on it.  That is one of the great things about a SBR AR15 is the ability to easily change the uppers for difference barrel lengths and calibers.  I also swapped out the stock trigger for a Geissele Super 3 Gun trigger.

I have several Geissele SSA triggers and I highly recommend them.  I wanted to try the Super 3 Gun (S3G) trigger, so I picked one up a while back.  First it was installed in a LMT lower, where it would often double & rarely fail to reset after a shot was fired.  So it was quickly removed from that lower(I have had other issues with that lower before).  When the got the Colt, I went and tried the S3G trigger in it.  Now in the Colt, the S3G trigger worked fine when shooting offhand or from the bench.  However due to the very short reset, when I was firing from a bipod I experienced unintentional doubles.  This trigger might be great for someone who wants to bump fire, but the reset is a little too short for me.  I wouldn’t recommend the S3G for any serious fighting rifles, but I do recommend the Geissele SSA and the Colt 6945 as they are awesome.

Video: Larry Vickers on SOCOM weapon clones.

Larry Vickers posted up a nifty eight minute video about some of the copies of US SOCOM firearms available.

Unfortatly he only covers some of the ones made by High Caliber Sales(HCS).  I purchased a HCS MK12MOD1 upper and had to return it due to the multiple issues it had.  Also they have started using Bolt Carrier Groups that are not staked, cheaper non-Colt receiver, etc.  I can not recommend High Caliber Sales due to my bad experience with them.

The supply of MK12 parts is drying up.  If you want one, it will be better to get it sooner rather than later.  Items like the correct handguards (for both the MK12MOD0 and the MK12MOD1) are getting much harder to source.